The mother of ‘Chloe’ wanted to share her feelings about the Shared Lives support her daughter has received from Shared Lives carers Lorna and Graham. I’ve heard so many powerful testaments to the work of Shared Lives carers, but Chloe’s Mum’s letter to Lorna and Graham knocked me for six:
I wanted to put pen to paper so to speak to share with you both my thoughts, my family’s thoughts and some of the insights Chloe (not real name) has shared with us all. It is my wish for you to pass this on for others to help describe, explain and promote the shared lives experience.
It was Chloe herself who first made her decision to try this way of living. She was at perilous time in her life following the tortuous and complex two year long break up of her family. She found herself as she described “..in the darkness”. She talked about wanting her own life but couldn’t see a way forward through her learning disabilities and the people obstacles in her way.
The service provided a safe place. This became Chloe’s and the rest of the family’s most used word in those early days. Chloe talked open about the trials and tribulations but feeling safe was the foundation. It was evident that she was developing an understanding of co-operation and feeling a part of things. She had often felt unheard and excluded in the past from small choices to major decisions and her frustrations were often evident with her “melt downs” (her own words). Now her emotions have now stabilised there have been no more melt downs – aggressive outbursts or incidences of challenging behaviours.
Chloe was beginning to talk about discussions, informed choices and decisions Chloe was part of even though sometimes they didn’t suit her on the day. These days she is more willing to compromise – thinking of others needs, will negotiate, and empathise and has the skills and improved vocabulary to do this.
She is heard, supported and has begun to make sense of the times before Lorna and Graham. She started to talk about things with her brother and sister and realised from the beginning that her family could be part of her shared lives -or not – if she so wished – it wasn’t a case of one or the other.
She had started to take an active part in her meetings and felt empowered, meetings in which she used to sit through in almost silence. More than once she described Lorna and Graham as bringing her …'”into the light!” She used to talk about things in her life and would want everyone’s opinion of what she should do – she now lets us know what she would like. Chloe has been able to express and assert her needs Her brother was quite amazed to have a phone call from Chloe, she had plans for a visit and organised everyone’s attendance something he had not expected from Chloe herself!
During the last year Chloe has become aware of healthy eating and healthy activities. She has lost about one and a half stone and has a more positive self image. She is less tolerant of poor treatment from friends. She has chosen to disassociate with people who had a negative or predatory influence in her life. She is confident and gaining more, she has decided to have a boyfriend in her life and on a recent holiday was determined to buy herself and wear her “very first “bikini”. She is even in the process of setting up her own business !
The joy of watching Chloe develop her “grown up” ways has been shared by me, her brother and sister. To see them all start to develop their adult sibling relationships each with their own independent lives is what every parent would want.
For me thinking about the year that has passed and Chloe as she is today has given not only hope but a greater understanding of Chloe’s future to come.
Chloe has not swapped a family for a shared lives family until her growing up is done – she has chosen to share her independent life with others in a way that supports her unique abilities and complex needs. Chloe chose her own life; she didn’t choose to be on her own in order to achieve this.